Klopp confident depleted Liverpool moving out of slump despite defeat
Solskjaer delighted with United’s defending and surprise first win over the champions
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after his team’s surprise defeat at Old Trafford. Photograph: EPA
The German will need his team to improve quickly to keep their title defence alive, as well as their Champions League ambitions.
The Premier League champions started without the likes of Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip, Sadio Mane, and of course long term injury Virgil Van Dijk, and they were exposed defensively throughout as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed his first win over Klopp’s Liverpool team.
A woeful run since Christmas has seen Liverpool win only once in seven games and even that was against a virtual Aston Villa under-23 team in the FA Cup third round.
Against United they looked far more like their old selves, especially the misfiring forward line, with Mohamed Salah getting back to form with two well-taken goals. They looked uncomfortable at the back though as United counter-attacked to devastating effect and were knocked out by a superb free kick by Bruno Fernandes late on.
It is one of the toughest periods Klopp has endured at Liverpool for some time but the German was upbeat despite highlighting the decisive mistakes which proved costly.
“It’s not what we wanted, so it’s frustrating,” Klopp said. “We weren’t on our absolute top, but we made a lot of steps in the right direction,” he said.
“You could see the boys really wanted to change the fortune, they wanted to score goals and that’s good. We did that, we scored twice, which is good as well. That’s all okay but in the end they scored three, we scored two and they are through.
“But we can take positives out of this game, of course - I saw a lot of steps in the right direction and that’s all good.”
After watching the way his side were undone on the break by United, he said they would need to work on the training ground this week to prepare for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur who also rely heavily on counter-attacking.
“It was good preparation for Tottenham,” he said. “We know exactly what we have to work on. If you are in a situation you don’t like, you want to get out of it.
“We want to get out of it and for that we have to make steps. Tonight we made these steps - not the final ones, but we made steps and that’s for the moment okay.”
Klopp denied his team, who would slip out of the top four in the Premier League if they lose to Tottenham on Thursday, are running low on confidence.
“Tonight I didn’t see any confidence problems. We are on it, believe me, and we will sort that,” he said.
United, on the other hand have been beaten only once since going out of the Champions League to RB Leipzig in early December. “We played some really good stuff, good goals, we have to defend well against them and we managed to react well,” United manager Solskjaer said.
The Norwegian left playmaker Fernandes on the bench from the start, after a poor showing in the league contest between the teams, but he made the difference with his late free-kick:
“When you leave him out like I did today, he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free kicks so I was pretty confident he could score one if he got the chance.”